Have you ever met with a prospect for the first time and felt like the entire conversation was like pulling teeth?
Maybe they took a couple of calls or answered some urgent emails while you were waiting to ask your next question. Maybe you couldn’t meet in person, and you could sense they were distracted and not focused during the little time you had.
In these situations, it's common to leave the appointment with little to no valuable information, no follow-up direction, and when you look at your notes it feels like a waste of your valuable time.
Not all first meetings go well, but you can prevent the train wreck first appointment with better pre-planning.
Why (and How) To Prepare For Sales Meetings
Often, the frustration from encounters like this is misdirected at the person sitting across the table or on the screen.
Decision makers come in a variety of personality types. Label them as you will, but generally, you encounter the direct and assertive, the friendly and cheerful, or the defensive and combative - and maybe even someone who's a little of everything above. Regardless, it’s not their personality that makes a sales appointment good or bad. It’s how you approach and prepare for the first meeting that makes it good or bad.
Preparing yourself and your prospect is a best practice. There are a number of free tools at your fingertips to help you do this, including Google and LinkedIn. There are a few ways you can search to find really valuable information you can use to help prepare for your meeting.
Before we go there, I want to touch on the importance of using a valid business reason when you're working towards getting the first appointment initially.
Building rapport helps increase the comfort level a prospect has when meeting with you for the first time, and rapport building can begin before you even get the meeting. If you use a valid business reason that shares insight and illustrates empathy, your expertise, and your ability to solve problems, you are more likely to get an appointment. It also begins to establish your ability to be a valuable business partner. When done well, the prospect is likely to be more open and engaged during the initial meeting itself.
So, now we turn back to preparing for the meeting. I would recommend beginning your prep with defining the top three things you want to accomplish in your meeting. You might think of this as your objective for the meeting or, said another way, what you need to uncover during and what needs to happen in order for that meeting to be a success.
Once you know what needs to happen in order for the meeting to be a success, it’s critical you don’t waste time asking questions you should already know the answer to – those that you could easily find online. Focus on taking the information you find online to help form questions that show you’ve done your homework and can relate back to their potential desired business results.
3 Ways to Prepare for Sales Appointments
To start, there are three searches you should conduct before sales appointments to help you better prepare for success:
1. Search the Business Category and Trends
Consider using key phrases that touch on topics likely to impact their business. For example, if you are about to meet with a local plumber servicing the metro area, find what challenges they might be facing by searching, “consumer trends in choosing a plumber in [your city],” or “how a consumer chooses a plumber.” Searches like this help you to think like a plumber and therefore develop more thoughtful needs analysis questions.
2. Search the Business Name
As you search for the business online, look for reviews on them and what social media networks they use. The goal here is to learn more about how they relate and engage with current or potential customers.
Search the business name to find reviews that can help you learn more about what their customers say and how or if they respond to their customers (the good and the bad). Visit their social media pages to see what they post about, how they communicate with current and potential customers and if those same current and potential customers engage with their posts. You might also notice if there are any opportunities to learn more about the customer journey specific to their business.
3. Search the Person You are Meeting With
Lastly, a Google or LinkedIn search on the person you are meeting with can also be helpful. On Google, you can filter “news” to see if there’s any new press that could be relevant to an opportunity or current challenge.
On LinkedIn, look at their profile and what they list about their work responsibilities, background, or groups they belong to that might be helpful to learn about them to help as better questions.
A well-thought-out valid business reason, and a well-prepared first meeting, are your best opportunity to earn trust and avoid the disappointment of a terrible initial encounter.
*Editor's Note: This blog has been updated since its original posting.